Pregame Six Pack: Showdown with the Seminoles


It wasn’t too long ago that an undefeated Notre Dame team was about to head into some of the most hostile territory in all of college football. A double-digit underdog for a primetime, ESPN game, many expected Brian Kelly’s flawed, but surprisingly undefeated squad to be no match for their opponent. Then the Irish pulled away in a tight game and beat Oklahoma 30-13.

Oklahoma wasn’t Florida State. But then again, this is a rivalry that saw Ty Willingham walk into Doak Campbell Stadium and shake down the thunder against Bobby Bowden.

Two drastically different data points are only issued to point out the fact that we really have no idea what will happen on Saturday evening, when both the Seminoles and the Irish face their stiffest test to date. The winner will likely take the inside track to one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. The loser will be forced to regroup and win a resume contest down the line.

But after a week of constant conversation — some of it even focusing on the battle on the field — one thing is sure: It’s time to play the football game.

Let’s get to the Pregame Six Pack. As usual, here are six fun facts, tidbits, leftovers or miscellaneous musings to get you ready for the game of the year between Notre Dame and Florida State.


Everett Golson wasn’t exactly Broadway Joe, but his declaration (and realization) should have Irish fans feeling better about Saturday night. 

Nobody has wanted to see Everett Golson morph into a turnover machine these past few weeks. But if you’re looking for a blueprint on how to handle adversity (note to Jameis Winston, this is the type of adversity we enjoy writing about), Golson has been nearly perfect in the week since his sloppy game against North Carolina nearly helped the Tar Heels pull the upset.

It started Saturday evening, when after the Irish’s 50-43 victory, Golson spoke candidly to the assembled media.

“I think I said it earlier, but I come in here kind of every week for the last couple of weeks saying I have to do a better job,” Golson said. “Right now, it’s time for me to stop saying that and time for me to put my words into action and actually do that.”

According to head coach Brian Kelly, Golson took that focus to the practice field, where he was sharp all week as the undoubted leader of the Irish offense. It also helped that the coaching staff found new drills to help focus the attention of their quarterback on ball security, with Matt LaFleur bringing in a specialized football that helped Golson work on pressure-point, ball carrying technique.

On Wednesday afternoon, Golson was asked repeatedly about his recent rash of turnovers, and how they’ll likely be the determining factor in Saturday night’s football game. It forced the quarterback to make a proclamation that isn’t necessarily bulletin-board material, but a strong statement nonetheless.

“It’s to a point where you get just kind of fed up. I think that’s where I am,” Golson said. “And I’m definitely not going to turn it over.”

Don’t expect Notre Dame’s quarterback to all of a sudden show up in Tallahassee in a white fur coat like Namath. But the fact that Golson has had to endure multiple weeks of questions has clearly gotten to the Irish’s premiere playmaker.

“Everett’s at the point where he’s tired of being the center of the question,” Kelly said Thursday. “He’s tired of answering the question about turnovers.”

But if there’s another development this week that should have Irish fans happy, it’s that Golson also took some time to look inward. While there are things he can do to combat turnovers (and they’ll be necessary to beat Florida State), Golson also had to get his mojo back.

As we talked about here, Golson wasn’t playing like the quarterback we’ve seen against North Carolina. The natural instincts he’s displayed taking over football games were replaced by a football player trying to do the right thing or make the correct read.

On Saturday night, Golson’s going to have to be the artist who just understands the game, not a college kid trying to play the position assignment correct.

“I have to remain who I am. That’s what has gotten me to this point,” Golson said. “I don’t want to try to be somebody I’m not. It’s a fine line.”


It’s important every week. But Saturday night’s battle in the trenches will be critical. 

Both head coaches had nothing but good things to say about their opponent’s offensive line. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher was relatively succinct.

“Big offensive line. Very good up front,” Fisher said.

Kelly went into a bit more detail, remembering a young group that has grown up since the Champs Sports Bowl.

“One of the best offensive lines I’ve seen in some time,” Kelly said. “I remember going against them three years ago, it was a freshman laden, young offensive line, extremely talented.  Now it’s a veteran group.  So I think that that’s probably what really stands out to me.”

With the pleasantries out of the way, Notre Dame needs to win both sides of this matchup to take down the Seminoles on Saturday. And one big matchup to watch is the one over center, where Jarron Jones will lineup against Ryan Hoefeld.

Hoefeld was shaky after replacing starter Austin Barron, entering the game against Wake Forest and making a few bad shotgun snaps and drawing a holding penalty. Matched up against Jones, the Irish have a chance to collapse the pocket and win at the point of attack, forcing a relatively weak Florida State running game to be non-existent.

Hoefeld played better against Syracuse, but Jones has shown flashes of great play this season when it was demanded. Consider this one of those times.

Flipping to the other side of the ball, Notre Dame is going to have to be able to establish the line of scrimmage and a corresponding ground game. While much has been made about the lack of pass rushers on the Irish roster, the Seminoles have just eight sacks in their six games, good for 107th in the country.

We’ve seen Notre Dame’s ground game get better in recent weeks. And while Desmond Howard spent Friday morning on SportsCenter saying that the Irish couldn’t run the ball, his colleagues at ESPN, Lou Holtz and Danny Kanell disagreed.

““I think Notre Dame can run the ball and protect the passer. I’m not sure Florida State can,” Holtz said, not all that surprisingly.

“I would agree in the trenches, Notre Dame has an advantage,” Kanell said. “Florida State has struggled mightily running the football, and that is one area where Notre Dame can absolutely go toe to toe with Florida State.”


As the college football world evolves, both Notre Dame and Florida State are on the cutting edge of technology. 

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick has done a lot of things for Notre Dame. He’s currently in the middle of making sure that the Irish get ahead in the world of sports performance.

While a lot of this week has focused on the differences between these two programs, both Florida State and Notre Dame have made a commitment to utilizing their resources — and technology — to bettering their teams. For Florida State, an Australian-based Catapult system was credited as the X-Factor in their BCS title run.

Now Notre Dame is experimenting with that same system, and it’s already paid dividends this season. The Chicago Tribune‘s Chris Hine explains.

After a promising summer camp, Brown’s first three games yielded disappointing results: only four receptions for 35 yards. He was healthy. He just wasn’t producing at the level he and the coaches expected.

“We were kind of like, what’s happened here?” coach Brian Kelly told the Tribune.

Kelly turned to data from a product the Irish are trying out — a GPS-oriented device called the OptimEye. In that data, Kelly solved the mystery: Brown was tense, and his technique was slacking.

Kelly has outfitted Notre Dame’s receivers this season with the cellphone-sized device, which they wear on their backs during games and practices. The device mixes dozens of data points — such as speed, distance, acceleration, torque, impact of getting hit, movement of body parts — in an algorithm to calculate a “player load,” which essentially measures how much a player is working.

Brown’s player load was consistently half that of the other receivers. That number led Kelly to the film, where he found the solution.

“It wasn’t a matter of him not working,” Kelly said. “He was dragging his feet. He was really tight and he wasn’t fluid like the other guys.”

Since the discovery, Brown has 12 catches for 147 yards, including a key touchdown against Stanford.

During a preseason media session with strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo, I asked him about the use of systems like Catapult. He said that he and Kelly had kicked the tires on it, but hadn’t committed to it yet, though acknowledged other programs at Notre Dame were utilizing the system. That’s obviously changed, or the veteran strength coach was being coy, no sin for a program looking for every opportunity to get ahead.

So as the Irish build their baseline results this season with their new system, a funny thing happened along the way. They’ve leaned on Florida State, who actually has helped the Irish staff understand the data.


“We cheated. We called Florida State,” Kelly told Hine. “We didn’t know what the numbers meant and they did.”



Last year, Florida State’s defense was statistically dominant. This year’s unit is still finding its way.  

In preseason camp, a look at the Seminoles roster had you wondering if Jimbo Fisher had built a dream team. But on the defensive side of the ball, Florida State has not lived up to the precedent set by the national champs.

Through six games, the Seminoles are still learning on the job. While injuries and attrition have forced a minor rebuild, the numbers have reflected a unit that has taken a fairly large step backwards. broke down the numbers through six games, comparing last year’s defense to the one Notre Dame will face. Let’s take a look:

FSU D: 2013 vs. 2014
Points per game: 
12.3 to 20.7
Yards per game: 285 to 359
Rush yards per game: 127 to 145
Pass yards per game: 158 to 214
Sacks: 14 to 8
Third down defense: 30.1% to 44.2%

Across the board, the numbers have dropped, some quite significantly. So while the Seminoles’ personnel still reads like a All-Star team, there are opportunities to be had against first-year defensive coordinator Charles Kelly’s unit.


Another Saturday, another game where red zone play is critical. 

After a perfect day in the red zone helped the Irish offense escape North Carolina, Saturday night’s battle inside the 20s will likely dictate who exits the game 7-0.

The Seminoles are the No. 2 team in the country when it comes to scoring in the red zone. They’re cashed in 28 of 29 opportunities, a perfect marriage between a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and Robert Aguayo, a Lou Groza-winning kicker.

The Irish have been no slouches in the red zone, scoring on 89 precent of their opportunities. And the Irish have actually turned more of their chances into six points, scoring one more touchdown in one less scoring attempt.


But the Irish offense is up against a Seminoles defense that’s played very good in the red zone. Florida State ranks No. 10 in the country, giving up scores on just 68 percent of opportunities. They’ve limited touchdowns well, ranked No. 11 in limiting opponents to less than six points. That’s the biggest statistical gulf in this breakdown, with the Irish ranked No. 63 in the country stopping red zone touchdowns.

While Bob Diaco’s defenses thrived in the red zone, Brian VanGorder’s young unit has yet to show that resiliency. But against a Seminoles team that does exceptionally well in the scoring areas, the Irish will need to find a way to win that battle.



There isn’t much good to say about Jameis Winston — and Florida State’s treatment of his situation — off the field. But the defending Heisman Trophy winner might be college football’s best player, and he presents a challenge like few others Saturday night. 

I’ll let others make the Good vs. Evil parallels. And while from afar it looks as if the Seminoles athletic department needs to clean house and reexamine how it views football, that’s a story that’s been talked about enough this week, leaving the problematic matchup with Jameis Winston on the field woefully under-discussed.

A year after putting together one of the historically great seasons the sport has ever seen, Grantland’s Matt Hinton probably summed it up best:

As long as he is on the field, though, Winston remains arguably the most indispensable player in the nation. With him, Florida State is a substantial favorite to win every game it plays and repeat as national champion. Without him, Florida State is just another Top 25 team trying to keep its head above water with a three-star quarterback, a mediocre running game, and a suddenly vulnerable defense. Either way, the remainder of the 2014 season will be shaped more indelibly by Winston’s game than by anyone else’s, whether due to his presence or his absence.

For the Irish to win on Saturday, they’ll have to do something that nobody has managed to yet: Beat Jameis Winston.

At 19-0 as a starting quarterback, another win Saturday would make him the first FBS quarterback since 2000 to start his career 20-0.

So for all the headlines about autographs, crab legs, BB guns, and things far more detestable, this is the best quarterback Kelly and the Irish have faced since Andrew Luck and an offense that’s far more explosive and dangerous than any other.

“They’re not going to let you just line up and blitz him and have at him,” Kelly said, when asked about Jimbo Fisher and what the Seminoles do that makes the so difficult to defend. “They know how to protect their offense. They’ve got two guys on the perimeter that can flat out fly… You have to be smart and you have to pick your spots.”

That means another difficult task for Brian VanGorder and his young Irish defense. And while the general sentiment of sending the house early and often has been a popular water-cooler defensive strategy, Kelly knows it’ll take much more than that.

“We know what we’re facing. Brian knows we can’t walk in there and say, hey, we’re going to blitz them. We’ve got 87 different blitzes,” Kelly said. “We’ll get crushed if that’s what we do. We’ve got to mix it up. We’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to be really, really good against the run, especially on first down. If we do a good job there, keep them off balance, we have to score on offense and play really good special teams, we can win the game.”


At every step of his decade at Notre Dame, Tommy Rees provided stability otherwise lacking

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame
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He was a three-star quarterback coming from a Chicago suburb with scholarship offers from only two other Power-Five programs. The head coach who recruited him had been fired.

And then Notre Dame needed the freshman quarterback to start against a top-15 team and try to redeem a sub-.500 season. Tommy Rees threw three touchdown passes to upset No. 15 Utah. He completed 13-of-20 passes to avoid any distinct mistakes, an immediate 180-degree turn from how the previous week ended with Rees filling in as an injury replacement. The Irish did not want to lean on him too much, hence only 129 passing yards, but he delivered.

“Everything in our game plan was you’ve got to run the football, we’ve got to be high-percentage in our throws and not put Tommy in too many positions where we could turn the ball over,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in November 2010. “I wasn’t going to put this game on Tommy Rees.”

Kelly would, in time, put many games on Tommy Rees. At the outset, though, he continued to rely on the Irish ground game to rattle off a four-game win streak and turn a 4-5 debut season into an 8-5 finish with resounding momentum. Notre Dame ran the ball 144 times in those four games compared to 106 pass dropbacks (sacks adjusted).

RELATED READING: 30 Years of Notre Dame on NBC: Tommy Rees’ first career start, an upset exaggerated

Most memorably, the game-winning drive at USC featured five rushes and only two passes, taking a lead with just two minutes left to snag the first Irish win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 2000.

Kelly turned back to Danye Crist to start the 2011 season and quickly flipped to Rees after only a half. In 2012, Kelly called on Rees in the most critical of moments to steady freshman quarterback Everett Golson. Then when Golson was suspended for the 2013 season, Rees was again thrown into the chaos and dragged Notre Dame to a respectable season rather than one lost in all sorts of ways.

At every step of his playing career, Rees provided the Irish stability when it was otherwise absent. He would do that again these past six years as an assistant coach.

First, he showed up expecting to be the 10th assistant coach only for the NCAA to delay that implementation, forcing Rees to become a graduate assistant, both adding coursework to his workload and removing his ability to coach the Irish quarterbacks in practices.

Then he threaded the delicate needle of a midseason quarterback change in 2018 even though Notre Dame had not lost a game. Keeping both Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book engaged with the team and moving forward propelled the Irish to the College Football Playoff, a direct counter to the quarterback debacle that torpedoed the 2016 season. Doing that while under an abrasive offensive coordinator who has continued to burn his way out of subsequent coaching jobs makes the player relations that much more impressive.

When Chip Long was fired following the 2019 season, Rees took over the offense for a resounding — and decently unexpected — throttling of Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl.

Obviously, 2020 brought instability to everyone in every industry, including college football. Rees’s offense averaged 6.2 yards per play, the No. 4 most explosive offense of Kelly’s 11 years at Notre Dame.

In 2021, Rees worked with three quarterbacks to keep the Irish in Playoff contention. Again, his ability to prop up the psyche of the most important position in college football was the key to Notre Dame’s success, particularly as the head coach was apparently actively planning his exit from South Bend. Of course, Kelly’s abrupt departure gave Rees the biggest platform in his Irish career to buttress the program, to provide stability, to secure its future.

When Rees turned down Kelly’s LSU overtures — “I’m [bleepin’] staying,” Rees told his offense — he eased Freeman’s first-year learning curve by magnitudes. The former defensive coordinator knew what offense would be run in 2022 and that he did not need to worry about it much. For the second consecutive Irish head coach’s maiden voyage, Rees led a late-season surge, potentially setting the tone for his first few seasons.

RELATED READING: Tommy Rees turns down Brian Kelly’s LSU overture and will remain at Notre Dame
Jack Swarbrick, Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees brought stability to Notre Dame long before and obviously after Brian Kelly sowed chaos

In literally every one of his 10 years at Notre Dame, Rees navigated choppy waters.

He turned Ian Book into an NFL quarterback who could win a Super Bowl ring this weekend. He won eight games with Drew Pyne as his starter. Those may not be the accolades of a “quarterback whisperer,” but finding success with talent as questioned as he once was proved Rees’s bona fides enough that the greatest coach in college football history came calling.

Rees owed Notre Dame nothing.

That is not, “Rees no longer owed Notre Dame anything.” It is that he never did.

He played four strong seasons as a quarterback in undesirable situations at every turn. Whatever debt a player owes his school, Rees paid then.

There is no further loyalty or obligation owed to an alma mater. The expectation of one says more about those conjuring those expectations than anyone else.

Coaching for Nick Saban is a clear step forward in a young coach’s career, no matter what transfer quarterback has arrived in South Bend this winter.

For that matter, by recruiting Sam Hartman, Rees provided Notre Dame some stability for an 11th year, rather notable for someone who spent only a decade at the university.

RELATED READING: Opportunities abound for Tommy Rees, earned recognition after a decade at Notre Dame

Lengthy Texas cornerback joins Notre Dame class of 2024


Maybe Benjamin Morrison and Jaden Mickey will be anomalies, but if they are precedent-setters, then Notre Dame may have snagged another unheralded but promising cornerback with the Saturday afternoon commitment of consensus three-star Leonard Moore (Round Rock High School; Texas).

Moore also holds scholarship offers from Oregon, TCU and Vanderbilt, to name a few. In total, he has offers from six schools in the Pac-12, three in the Big 12, two in the SEC and one in the ACC, an intriguing widespread array from someone not yet lighting recruiting rankings on fire.

At 6-foot-2, Moore should have the length to become a physical cornerback, one perhaps more in the mold of current Notre Dame fifth-year cornerback Cam Hart than the rising sophomore Morrison.

Moore’s highlight reel starts with a few interceptions, naturally, and a punt return. Pass breakups are not necessarily the most enthralling of film. But then he sheds a block to force a fumble and soon defends a back-shoulder throw with ease. Moore is clearly a playmaker, particularly given no level of Texas football should be scoffed at. He intercepted three passes, forced two fumbles and broke up four passes in 2022 as a junior.

He readily anticipates routes and when needed funnels his man as the defensive design demands.

Moore runs track, as well, with decent 200-meter times in the low 23-second range.

The eighth commitment in the class of 2024, Moore is the second defensive back, joining consensus three-star cornerback Karson Hobbs (Archbishop Moeller; Cincinnati). While team recruiting rankings are thoroughly premature more than 10 months before anyone can officially sign, thoroughness demands mentioning that Notre Dame’s class is currently ranked No. 2 in the country behind only Georgia with 10 commitments.

RELATED READING: An early look at Notre Dame’s seven commits in the class of 2024, including QB CJ Carr

A cursory look at the depth chart suggests Moore could have an avenue to early playing time in South Bend. Hart likely will move on to the NFL after the 2023 season, a shoulder injury tipping the scales toward returning this offseason. Aside from him, the only cornerbacks with experience on the Irish roster are Morrison and Mickey and rising senior Clarence Lewis. Any of the four young cornerbacks that do make an impression in 2023 will effectively be on equal footing with Moore.

Reports: Tommy Rees heads to Alabama after 10 total years at Notre Dame

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Notre Dame Spring Game
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If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Tommy Rees will leave Notre Dame to do just that, heading to be the offensive coordinator at Alabama, according to reports Friday afternoon. Nick Saban and the Tide denied Rees a national championship as a player in 2012 and a title game appearance as an offensive coordinator in 2020.

The South Bend Tribune‘s Mike Berardino first reported Rees’s decision, coming a day after reports initially surfaced that Rees was Alabama’s preferred choice for the gig, and he had flown to Tuscaloosa to consider the position.

Those unbeaten regular seasons, along with one in 2018 as the Irish quarterbacks coach, were the high points of Rees’ total of a decade with the Notre Dame football program. Like his former head coach, he will now head to the SEC chasing a higher peak.

Of course, Rees spurned Brian Kelly’s invite to join him at LSU last winter, instead memorably telling the Irish offensive players, “I’m [bleepin’] staying,” setting the tone for the first week of Marcus Freeman‘s tenure as Notre dame head coach.

RELATED READING: Tommy Rees turns down Brian Kelly’s LSU overture and will remain at Notre Dame
Jack Swarbrick, Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees brought stability to Notre Dame long before and obviously after Brian Kelly sowed chaos

Alabama made an offer Rees could not refuse, even if a year ago he said, “I love this place (Notre Dame). I believe that we can win a national championship here, and I’m committed to doing everything we can to get to that point.”

Going to Tuscaloosa does not render those words empty. Rees is going to work for the greatest college football coach in history in a role that has repeatedly springboarded coaches to better opportunities. Since Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, his offensive coordinators have gone on to be, in chronological order, the assistant head coach at Texas (Major Applewhite), head coach at Colorado State (Jim McElwain), offensive coordinator at Michigan (Doug Nussmeier), head coach at Florida Atlantic (Lane Kiffin), head coach at Texas (Steve Sarkisian) and offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots (Bill O’Brien).

Thus, Rees is bettering both his chances at a national title in the short term and his presumed path to whatever gig he wants next in the long term.

He leaves Notre Dame after three seasons as the Irish offensive coordinator, which came after three years as the quarterbacks coach. The Irish have ranked No. 41, No. 19 and No. 30 in scoring offense the last three seasons, peaking with 35.2 points per game in 2021, the second-highest total in Brian Kelly’s tenure.

But perhaps Rees’s finest moment as a Notre Dame assistant came when he finessed a mid-season quarterback switch to Ian Book from Brandon Wimbush despite the Irish remaining unbeaten throughout 2018. In some respects, Rees threaded a similar needle in 2021, incorporating Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan, then-freshman Tyler Buchner and spot-reliever Drew Pyne; each quarterback could be credited as responsible for at least one win as the Irish made a Playoff push.

Then this past season, Rees responded to Buchner’s shoulder sprain that cost him 10 games by working with Pyne to piecemeal an offense.

From December of 2021:

Rees has considered leaving his alma mater before, reportedly interviewing to be Miami’s offensive coordinator in recent years, not to mention weighing Kelly’s offer from LSU 14 months ago, as well as a previous brief dalliance with Alabama a few years ago.

After leading Notre Dame’s offense in one way or another for 10 of the last 13 years, Rees has finally opted to do so elsewhere. It just so happens to be as part of the team that twice turned back the Irish and now faces Kelly every fall.

Opportunities abound for Tommy Rees, earned recognition after a decade at Notre Dame

Clemson v Notre Dame
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A lot of people go to college for seven years. For Tommy Rees, it has been 10 years at Notre Dame, so to speak.

Whether or not Rees leaves his alma mater this week, as multiple Thursday reports indicated Rees is the frontrunner to be Alabama’s next offensive coordinator, there is no bad choice in front of him. Either Rees returns as the Irish offensive coordinator for a fourth season, continues his pursuit of winning a national championship at Notre Dame after three postseason trips already in his career, or he learns under the best college football coach in history in a position that has springboarded coaches to greener pastures for about a decade now.

Irish fans may spend most of their falls criticizing Rees’s play calls, but he is clearly someone well-respected in the coaching community. Seen as a future coach when he was a player and then navigating multiple delicate quarterback situations at Notre Dame, this is not the first time Nick Saban has chased Rees. He reportedly did so following the 2019 season, when Rees had not even spent a day as an offensive coordinator.

Instead, Rees took over that gig in South Bend, losing to Alabama in the 2020 College Football Playoff, albeit a more competitive showing than when Rees and the Irish fell to the Tide in the 2012 title game. Miami sought Rees in recent years, and whispers of vague NFL interest have popped up more offseasons than not.

If most of those people who go to college for seven years are called doctors, then Rees has put together a doctorate-level intellect evidenced by who wants to hire him. Alabama publicly sending a branded plane to South Bend to ferry Rees for a visit on Thursday underscored that reputation.

Set aside the forced references to “Tommy Boy” — though the similarities do go past the first name and to a Catholic university in the Midwest — and realize Rees will leave Notre Dame at some point, probably sooner than later.

Maybe he joins Saban this weekend. Alabama needs to navigate a first-year starter at quarterback next year in a conference that quickly seemed to catch up to the Tide last season, with both LSU and Tennessee staking claims as competitors with Georgia already clearly out in front and Mississippi in the mix. Competing with former Irish head coach Brian Kelly every year would make for juicy headlines, but what speaks louder to Rees’s credit is that this is the time Saban wants to snag him, when Alabama’s footing may be less secure than at any point since the ‘00s.

Maybe Rees returns to Notre Dame, teams with Wake Forest graduate transfer quarterback Sam Hartman to ready for three top-10 matchups in 2023, and gets the Irish into the College Football Playoff for a third time in six years with the only constant quite literally being Rees.

Oh, and both scenarios should come with plenty of money.

Rees has no bad choice in front of him. That is a credit to him, even if fans would rather lampoon him than step back and acknowledge the intricacies of playcalling.

If he heads to Alabama, the annual matchups with LSU will become delightful fodder from afar. His Notre Dame legacy will include “Call duo until you can’t speak,” his emphatic play call when he left the coaches’ booth early as the Irish upset Clemson this past November, and “I’m [bleepin’] staying,” Rees’s declaration to the offensive players last December amid a week of tumult.

If he stays in South Bend, the next matchup with anyone in the SEC, most likely a 2023 bowl game, will drip with an on-field chance at validation. That legacy will include spurning college football’s best not once, but twice.

For a quarterback who lost his starting job at Notre Dame not once (2011 preseason), but twice (2012 preseason), some pride has been earned. Saban’s stamp of approval carries all the weight needed in college football to assure someone of their professional standing.

It may have taken a decade, but Rees can now know he belongs with the best, no matter what decision he makes this weekend.